Michigan State University (MSU) researchers are working on helping farmers recover their farm’s waste and turn it into energy. The energy recovered will be in the form of hydrogen and biofuels which can be used around the farm to run equipment, machinery, vehicles and supply energy to the homes.
According to MSU, “Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist, has developed bioelectrochemical systems known as microbial electrolysis cells, or MECs, using bacteria to breakdown and ferment agricultural waste into ethanol. Reguera’s platform is unique because it employs a second bacterium, which, when added to the mix, removes all the waste fermentation byproducts or nonethanol materials while generating electricity.
“Similar microbial fuel cells have been investigated before. However, maximum energy recoveries from corn stover, a common feedstock for biofuels, hover around 3.5 percent. Reguera’s platform, despite the energy invested in chemical pretreatment of the corn stover, averaged 35 to 40 percent energy recovery just from the fermentation process …
“…The second bacterium, Geobacter sulfurreducens, generates electricity. The electricity, however, isn’t harvested as an output. It is used to generate hydrogen in the MEC to increase the energy recovery process even more.”
MSU goes onto say that the hydrogen recovery process brings the total energy recovery from 35 to 40 percent up to 73 percent energy recovery. The system that MSU has developed can be scaled up and decentralized across the U. S. to farms for use in composters or small silos to do two things. First, it will help recycle farm waste and second it will help create fuel for the farmers to use in their day to day operations.